The Assumptive Worlds of Psychopathy VIII: Embracing Shame and Guilt—Unraveling the Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

The Assumptive Worlds of Psychopathy VIII: Embracing Shame and Guilt—Unraveling the Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

Finally, people were stigmatized for not abiding by the rigid Puritan beliefs, thereby justifying the society’s dominant morals and values. Today, any rational person might look at this event, and speculate that the entire Puritan culture developed a mental illness based on their belief system.  Maybe some of these people who bought into the Puritan belief system experienced a self-stigma. Due to the extreme stressors during their time, some probably developed a mental disorder that was undeniably misunderstood. Those must have been scary times indeed for people of Salem.

The Salem Witch Trials offer a good example of how social stigma and certain cultural beliefs can negatively affect any given community. Today, our culture and belief systems are greatly affected by the compounds of social media and the superficial perfectionism it portrays. In fact, there is a higher incidence of anxiety in both children and adults today, and certainly one explanation concerns the way in which people are comparing themselves to certain social media postings, causing a domino effect of self-stigma, insecurity, guilt, and shame.

Suicide rates have climbed and today suicide is considered a major public health issue in the United States. In 2016, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) released data showing that the suicide rate in the United States had hit a 30-year high. What could be the cause of this increase in suicide?  It appears we are in a mental health crisis right now. Societal pressures may be different than they were back in the 1600’s, but people still react the same to stress and pressures.

Mental disorders continue to have public and self-stigmas attached to it, and people are afraid to talk about their problems and seek help. We think this is due to a general lack of understanding and acceptance of mental disorders that continues to be present in our society. Most of us freely use terms such as “crazy” or “weird” to label someone who does not seem to fit into societal norms. We cast them out from our communities, and often misunderstand the root cause of mental illness. In turn, we tend to stigmatize ourselves when we are labeled crazy or weird by thinking the worst and burdening ourselves with shame and guilt.


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About the Author

Lewis And MunzerChristy Lewis holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and has counseled for a combined 17 years in several clinical and medical settings and has offered career/life coaching for an additional 10 years. Christy is also Board Certified in Biofeedback and Neurofeedback through BCIA, the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance organization. Prior to working in private practice settings, Christy worked in Psychiatric and Rehabilitation hospital settings. Additionally, she worked in career transition/outplacement settings helping clients with their career transition needs. Christy Lewis currently works and is the director at her own private practice setting, The Biofeedback, Education, & Training Center, PLLC, where she combines counseling with a variety of training modalities to individuals of all ages who need help with issues ranging from severe emotional turmoil to people who are working on taking their personal growth to a higher level. Specifically, she has extensive experience working with kids, teens, & adults who have anxiety, depression, ADHD, frustration/anger issues, behavioral issues, and pain management. Kendell Munzer was born in Peekskill NY in 1973. In 1997 she earned her Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice from Curry College. In 2002 she earned her M.A in Counseling from Mercy College. She is currently pursuing her Doctoral Degree in Psychology at The Professional School of Psychology. Kendell works as a part time substitute teacher for the Charleston County School District. The majority of this work is spent working with behaviorally challenged students. She also works part time growing a local Kitchen and Bath business she and her husband have recently opened. Kendell has an extensive background as a Behavioral Specialist and has conducted many staff trainings and seminars. Presently she resides in Mt. Pleasant SC with her husband and two children. When Kendell isn’t at work she enjoys, photography, travelling, skiing, and spending quality time with her family.

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